‘Things still look gloomy’

Goundar Shipping managing director George Goundar during an interview with The Fiji Times at the Mua-I-Walu jetty in Suva. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU/FILE

If the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect Fiji in the coming months Goundar Shipping Services will possibly be looking at shutting down some of its operations.

This was highlighted by the Goundar Shipping Service managing director George Goundar yesterday.

Mr Goundar said the crisis had a big impact on his shipping company whereby six of his vessels have been anchored at the Suva Harbour with only a skeleton team manning other vessels that are still operating.

“We invested $10 million last year on ships and yet these vessels are sitting idle now at the harbour. It’s tough and we are hanging in there in terms of business. We will have to see how things go in the coming months.”

He said from 250 staff members, he now had only 180 working on reduced wages.

“One thing I’m blessed with is having loyal staff. These staff members have volunteered to a fifty per cent pay cut so they can still work,” he said.

“We have promised these staff that when things return to normal we will reimburse that money back to them.”

He said the drop in fuel price had given them a bit of breathing space, but things were still looking gloomy.

“We have ships running to the North, but it’s not the same as before. Trips are slow especially on passenger numbers compared to cargo shipment.

“Passenger numbers have reduced as many have left the capital and haven’t returned.

“We have noticed with ship movements that people are returning to the island to plant so the outbound is more than the inbound.

“In a way it’s good to see people going back to farm because it would mean good crop coming out of the outer islands in the future.”

He said on franchise run, they are lucky if the company gets one scheduled run in a month.

He said boat fares to the North was still at a reduced rate of $20 (one way) so people could travel during the crisis.

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